Category Archives: Fundraising Insights

5 Reasons Why You Can’t Find a Prospect’s Giving

When meeting a new prospect, it’s quite exhilarating to find out that they are philanthropic and have given generously to other organizations. Perhaps the prospect will be interested in focusing some of that philanthropy towards your organization. But occasionally, fundraising professionals may find a gap between what the prospect says and what is publicly available.

It can be very frustrating to learn that Jane Doe has given extensively to ABC KidsCare but prospect research has no philanthropic gifts listed in the donor profile! Or John Smith talked about his family foundation and it is not even mentioned in their profile! 

Let’s talk about the top five reasons why this information may not be available, even in this day and age of seemingly infinite data.

Reason 1: Not All Nonprofits Publish a List of Annual Donors

This might be the number one reason that a prospect’s giving is not available. While foundations are required to file tax filings that list their grant giving, nonprofits do not have the same requirements.

Many nonprofits publish an annual report that provides information about an organization, its successes, its programs, and much more for the past year. Many include a donor list, often by giving range. These annual reports are a great marketing tool to show off an organization and encourage other donors.

However, that information is up to the discretion of the nonprofit organization. If the nonprofit does not decide to publish it on the website and/or supply it to aggregators like iWave and DonorSearch, that information won’t be available. That means that research and other fundraising professionals may not find that information.

Reason 2: Anonymous Giving

While a prospect may be telling you about their giving to nonprofits, they may be shy about having that information publicly available to anyone. Many organizations allow donors to be anonymous in their honor rolls and sometimes even in their own databases.

There are many reasons why someone might want anonymity. It could be they don’t want the whole world to know how much money they have or to know that the they and their family are philanthropic. Some people want to protect their privacy and fear that they will be deluged with requests for funds if the information is public. Others may not want the public to know where their donations are going.

Obviously, this information is not available for prospect research professionals to find in the public domain. This makes the conversations you have directly with your prospects an important to fill in the picture that no amount of research can find.

Reason 3: Giving through a Third Party

Another reason that a prospect’s giving may not be easily findable is that they are giving through a third party, notably a donor advised fund, an LLC, or a trust. Similar to Reason 2, people can pick and choose how much information is available through these third party entities. In Fidelity Charitable’s most recent  donor advised fund report they share that 81% of Fidelity DAF holders share their names and addresses with a gift; 15% share only the name of the fund; and 4% give anonymously.

Similarly with LLCs, trusts, and funds, people can give as much or as little information as  they want. You might find just a surname, like “The Connor Family Charitable Fund.” Sometimes you find an LLC that does not appear to tie to the prospect at all, such as “123 ABC LLC.”

You may be able to infer that the Connor Family Charitable Fund is likely to be the prospect’s fund based on geographical location and areas of interest, but it’s not a certainty. Sometimes there just isn’t enough information.

Reason 4: Their Giving is International

One thing for certain is that the US has a lot of information publicly available, from real estate to SEC filings to foundation tax filings. We can find out a lot just from official databases. We also have a society norm where nonprofits tend to publish annual reports with donor lists.

But outside of the US, the situation is different for pretty much every country. Some places like Canada may have some giving information available but many countries do not have the same expectation or rules even for their foundations. So, the prospect could be giving extensively overseas but we may not be able to find it because the information is not public. There are some giving search sources for different countries, but even then, the prospect’s giving might not be in that database either.

However, there are workarounds that can help. Fundraising research professionals at Aspire make a point of researching how different cultures give back so we might understand general ideas about what people generally feel about philanthropy in the country in question. Additionally, there may be press releases about the prospect if the prospect commands a high profile.

Reason 5: That’s Not Really a Foundation

Sometimes prospects will tell us about their foundation, which is a huge sign of capability (foundations are expensive to start and maintain!) and affinity (they give!). But for whatever reason, the fundraising professionals cannot find heads or tails of any foundation in the name of the prospect. This is because using the name “foundation” is not regulated.

Anyone can name their donor advised fund, trust, or another fund a foundation. The best way to figure that out is to search for an incorporation record. A grant-giving foundation must be an incorporated entity and receive IRS designation as a foundation. If the organization isn’t found in Foundation Center, Candid, or the other IRS Form 990 databases, such as the IRS Search for tax exempt organizations, it is likely that it is not a foundation.

However, watch out because if a foundation was recently incorporated, it may not have its information publicly available yet.

Appreciating Information We Can Find

While these are just five reasons that someone’s giving may not be found in public information, it is pretty amazing that there is so much information that is made available.

There are many organizations throughout the US that do publish their annual reports. Press releases about philanthropy are published in the media. Foundations file tax returns which the IRS makes available in machine readable format.

All of these sources and others allow prospect researchers to find new major gift prospects and confirm affinity and capacity for existing donors.  

Additional Resources

A Guide to Social Media Marketing for Nonprofits: 6 Tips

Between January 2023 and January 2024, the number of social media users worldwide increased by 320 million people. As social media becomes increasingly more saturated, brands, influencers, and nonprofit organizations are constantly competing for people’s attention on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

That’s why it’s crucial for nonprofits to develop comprehensive social media marketing strategies that drive their goals forward and help them reach current and prospective supporters. With a dedicated plan, you can create impactful social media content that resonates with your audience and inspires them to take action.

In this guide, we’ll present tips for how your nonprofit can develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Along the way, keep your organization’s unique mission and audience in mind so you can successfully adapt this approach to your own nonprofit.

1. Determine your goals.

As with any new marketing initiative, start by determining the goals for your campaign. These goals should align with your overall marketing and organizational strategy and will guide the focus of your content. 

Common nonprofit social media marketing goals include:

  • Raising awareness
  • Increasing donations
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Promoting events
  • Showcasing impact
  • Driving newsletter sign-ups

Additionally, take note of any new offerings or programs you’d like to highlight within these broader objectives. For example, an environmental conservation organization running a social media campaign to increase donations may promote their new donor-advised funds (DAF) giving option.

2. Gather audience insights.

Next, research your audience so you can create tailored content that resonates with them on the platforms they prefer. Start by consulting your database for any relevant information you’ve collected from your supporters in the past, such as their names, ages, and contact information.

While you can survey your audience to obtain additional information, you can more efficiently gather insights about your supporters through data enrichment. Data enrichment refers to the process of supplementing your database with third-party information that allows you to dig deeper into supporter interests, behaviors, and preferences.

By enriching your database, you can fuel your social media marketing efforts with additional supporter information, such as:

  • Demographics
  • Education
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Net worth
  • Nonprofit engagement history
  • Lifestyle information

Before you add this new information to your database, ensure your existing data is clean and organized. Implement data hygiene procedures, such as standardizing data entry and consolidating duplicate entries, so you can easily identify useful information for your campaign.

3. Segment your audience.

Once you have a better understanding of your audience, personalize your campaigns by grouping supporters into relevant segments. You may choose to segment your audience by:

  • Demographics, such as age or location
  • Engagement history, such as whether they’re donors, volunteers, event attendees, or newsletter subscribers
  • Lifecycle stage, such as prospects, new supporters, long-term supporters, and lapsed supporters
  • Interest areas within your nonprofit’s broader mission

For example, a hunger relief organization like Feeding America may group supporters based on whether they’re interested in supporting their food access, food rescue, disaster response, or hunger research efforts and create content that resonates with each group. Alternatively, you may segment your audience by age, reaching older audiences on Facebook and younger supporters on TikTok.

4. Develop your content strategy.

Now, it’s time to create content that aligns with each audience segment. While it’s important to cater your content types and messaging to each platform and segment, you’ll also want your posts to remain cohesive throughout your social media accounts.

Follow these tips to keep your content consistent:

  • Coordinate your posting schedules. Double the Donation’s digital marketing guide recommends implementing a regular posting schedule so your followers know when to expect your content and can be ready to engage. Make sure you post similar content on different platforms around the same time so users can access it no matter which channels they use.
  • Use branded templates. For infographics and announcement posts, create branded templates with dimensions that fit the post sizes for each platform. Incorporate your brand colors, fonts, logo placement, and visual style to keep your content cohesive across social media platforms.
  • Develop a style guide. In addition to your visual content, your messaging should also remain consistent. Work with your team to nail down your brand’s specific voice, tone, and language preferences and share them with everyone involved in your organization’s marketing efforts.

Remember to keep your social media presence fresh and interesting by incorporating various content types like photos, videos, infographics, case studies, and user-generated content.

5. Integrate your marketing channels.

Social media isn’t the only marketing tool you’ll use in your broader marketing strategy. Your social media platforms should also work in tandem with your other marketing channels for a more consistent user experience and better cross-channel engagement.

Explore how you can integrate your social media accounts with your:

  • Website. For instance, you may embed your social media feeds on your website, use social media to drive website traffic, or leverage analytics from both channels to inform your approach on the other. 
  • Email marketing platform. Check to see if the platform you use allows you to sync contacts with your social media accounts so you can reach email subscribers via social media.
  • Online fundraising campaigns. Try adding the link to your online fundraising campaign in your social media account bios and directing those who contribute to your campaign to follow your social media accounts.

When you integrate your social media with your other marketing channels, you can ensure a cohesive experience for your supporters and increase engagement by allowing them to seamlessly hop from one channel to the next.

6. Assess your approach.

Determine your social media strategy’s effectiveness by tracking relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). Deep Sync’s first-party data guide explains that the following social media metrics can help you better understand your supporters’ preferences:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Post clicks

Use this data to determine which content resonates most with your audience and where you can alter your approach. Additionally, you may analyze the content of the comments you receive for deeper insights into your supporters’ thoughts about your posts and your organization as a whole.

Competing for your supporters’ attention online is no easy task. With a comprehensive social media marketing strategy, you can better catch your audience’s interest and engage them through cohesive, informative content. That way, you’ll remind them of why they support your cause in the first place and encourage them to continue their involvement long-term.

Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing & Sales Operations for Deep Sync. She joined the organization in 2017 and brings 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, sales enablement, and digital marketing. With a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude and a big-picture mindset, Gaby loves solving marketing and business challenges. She earned both a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa. Gaby enjoys spending time with her fiercely outspoken daughter; hiking and kayaking; rocking out in the first row of a live show; and giving back to her local community.

The Great Puzzle of Corporate Philanthropy

The Great Puzzle of Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate sponsorships – they are everywhere you look! From sports stadiums to 5K races and beyond. The concept seems simple: in exchange for advertising and branded materials at the event/location, the company financially sponsors the occasion. It has been the bread and butter of the corporate world for decades.

But if that is all you are asking for, you are only touching one piece of the big puzzle of corporate philanthropy. There is so much more to corporate fundraising than just sponsorships.

To name a few areas:  

  • corporate foundation grants
  • direct giving
  • cause marketing
  • matching gifts

These are just a few more puzzle pieces of the giant puzzle of corporate fundraising. Sometimes, it’s not apparent how a company gives and if there are differences between programs, such as their direct giving and foundation program priorities. Sometimes it’s difficult to find information about a company’s giving at all.

And of course, every company does it differently. One company may have a robust cause marketing program and a foundation, while another may leverage gifts in kind and matching gifts. So, it’s important to find as many, if not all, of the puzzle pieces to see the big picture of a company’s philanthropy.

On top of that, there are indications that corporate philanthropy is rising. The 2023 Giving USA report found that while individual giving went down by 6.4%, corporate giving grew 3.4% to $29.48B. There’s money out there for nonprofits to solicit from companies.

Alignment. Alignment. Alignment!

But just because there are many more ways that a company can give, that does not mean that companies are going to empty their boxes for every nonprofit who solicits them.

Alignment is critical. What does that mean? That means the mission of the nonprofit and the company complement and work together. For instance, bad alignment might include a sobriety organization and a whiskey company. A good example of alignment is burger joint Culver’s Restaurants and Future Farmers of America in the Thank You Farmers Project, which has raised $5M since it was established in 2013. Culvers uses agricultural products, like beef and milk, thanks to the agriculture industry.

But sometimes the alignment is not so obvious. Or it may be confusing to understand what a single company’s philanthropic outlook is or even how to apply.

Prospect research is key. At Aspire, we take a comprehensive look at a company’s giving — everything from corporate foundation, matching gifts, volunteerism, and even less obvious opportunities such as potential partnerships with scientists on research and development. We work to untangle how the company might want to partner and invest with our nonprofit clients.

For instance, we researched a multi-national travel company for a science-based organization. At first there did not seem to be any obvious alignment. But when we dug into the company’s areas of philanthropic interest, one area focused on environmental issues, working with young people, and communities.

 We found that the company had been making large gifts to similar nonprofits, which was another piece of promising news for our client. We learned how the company gave, usually through direct gifts, partnerships with higher education, and gifts in kind. We also made recommendations on how to approach and who to approach at the company.

So, when you start thinking about approaching a company for a donation to your nonprofit, think about the best approach to the giant puzzle that is corporate giving. Aspire Research Group can help your organization find those alignments and put the puzzle pieces in place to leverage your corporate philanthropy.

In Good Company: A Guide to Corporate Fundraising


Giving Opportunities

Will a Wealth Screening Really Help Me?

by Julia Bojarcik

Yes! Wealth screenings really can help you raise larger gifts and even identify major and transformative donor prospects. When you are looking to find qualified major gift prospects in your database, want to segment your donor database for targeted asks, or want to realign your fundraisers’ portfolios for optimum performance it can seem daunting — especially if your database has thousands of records. It isn’t a magic bullet, but a wealth screening can take you pretty far, even in this age of A.I.

What is a Wealth Screening?

Wealth screenings provide information about philanthropy and wealth markers that are matched to individuals from public data. When you submit the names, addresses, and any additional data to the wealth screening vendor, the vendor then takes that information and matches it with external data, and creates numerical or alpha ratings for wealth and/or inclination for each record. The ratings can be sorted and segmented, which is useful in developing fundraising strategies.

If your database or CRM has the capability, the ratings can be uploaded to your system for additional segmenting and reporting. Depending on the vendor used, you may receive additional data points such as property values, stock holdings, family foundations, and giving to other charitable organizations.

Why do a wealth screening?

Wealth screenings enable you to look at your donor database in a new light and highlight donor prospects who have the potential to make larger gifts. Below are a few examples:

  • Easily segment donor database by wealth and philanthropy: Donor prospects can be prioritized based on wealth scores, enabling your gift officers to focus their time and energy on those that have potential instead of cultivating prospects with little or no potential or inclination to give to your organization. Conversely, donor prospects with lower wealth scores can be reevaluated for possible removal from portfolios. If you are planning for a capital campaign, a wealth screening can help you build your campaign gift table.
  • Find ‘hidden gems’ in your database: Maybe you have a donor who gives very little or gives sporadically to your organization. That type of donor may not be on your radar. But when a screening indicates that he owns multiple properties in wealthy neighborhoods or runs a multimillion-dollar business, you may just have found a winner!
  • Create tailored lists for your fundraising events or visits: Say for example, you are planning a major fundraising event in Naples, Florida and want to invite your most promising prospects from that area. Where to start? You could pull a list of Naple prospects based solely on giving to your organization. But what about people who made small gifts or haven’t given recently? Should they automatically be discounted? Maybe not! Considering wealth capacity scores along with giving may highlight untapped potential donors in your database, thus creating a stronger invitation list.
  • Create Strategic Direct Mail Appeals: Direct mail appeals are expensive, especially if mailing to your entire database. Plus, the return on investment (ROI) can be low. Screening data can help your organization be more efficient and cost effective by segmenting your database by wealth and inclination. Therefore, instead of mailing to everyone in your database, you can strategically segment your donor database to create targeted appeals. This strategy will reduce the cost of direct mail appeals and increase your ROI.  
  • Opportunities to upgrade donor annual giving: Wealth screening vendors often provide an estimated annual gift range, which indicates the amount a donor is likely to give to your organization in one year. By comparing that data, you can find opportunities to upgrade donors to a higher gift amount through targeted appeals. This strategic approach is another way to reduce costs and increase ROI for direct mail appeals.

Wealth Screening Limitations

Wealth screenings sound like a magic bullet, don’t they? However, like any technology, they have limitations.

  • Garbage in, Garbage out: Screening data is matched to individuals based on the names and addresses from your database. The cleaner your data, the better the results. This is a good incentive to get your data in top notch shape!
  • False Matches: Even with the best data, there may be errors. There is always the possibility of false matches. This is especially true with common names. Say you happen to have two John Smiths who live in the same large city. It is conceivable that the screening could have matched data to the wrong John Smith. Another example along those same lines would be in the case of a father and son who are a Senior and Junior. And if there is a III or a IV, the chances of that happening increase. A good practice is to validate the results, especially in the case of common names.
  • Overestimating Wealth:  Screenings look at visible wealth, such as property values, business ownership and stock holdings, to determine the ratings. But there are some caveats to be aware of. Screenings tend to overestimate the wealth of those in the lower wealth tiers since most of their visible wealth is the value of their home. However, donors are not likely to sell their home to make a major gift.
  • Underestimating Wealth: Conversely, screenings tend to underestimate the wealth of those in the higher wealth tiers since their wealth can be tied to LLCs, trusts, and other non-public assets that cannot be found by screenings. People in the middle wealth tiers can have more visible assets such as multiple properties, insider stock, and evidence of larger gifts. Wealth screenings tend to be the best and most accurate with this group. Something to keep in mind as you review the results.

Since screening results have raw, unverified data, the results can be subject to error. The scores are great for segmentation. However, when looking at individuals the results should be validated for the reasons mentioned above.

It is also important to remember that to make use of all that wonderful data, it must be incorporated into your overall fundraising strategy. Too often organizations let that data sit there unused, due to either staffing or scheduling issues, or they just don’t know what steps to take.  Screenings are an investment in your program. Don’t let that happen!

Beyond the Wealth Screening

Wealth screenings are one piece of the fundraising puzzle. They are a fast and economical way to sort and segment large files. They are a way to prioritize prospects and help create strategic fundraising efforts, thus saving you time, money, and energy.

However, the ratings don’t tell the ‘story.’ This is where Profile Research plays an important role. Prospect Profiles can often uncover the story behind the donor prospect. Was their wealth made or inherited? How do they view philanthropy? What types of organizations do they tend to support? Are they more likely to respond to an emotional need or to a ‘good return of their investment’? These insights paint a more complete picture of the donor prospect which is vital in tailoring a cultivation strategy for a specific prospect.

Wealth screenings are only the beginning of a solid fundraising strategy. Remember that the key to securing very large gifts is building strong relationships with your donor prospects, and that takes time.

Are you considering a wealth screening and wish you had a research partner you could count on? Schedule your free consultation with Aspire today!

6 Creative Volunteer Engagement Ideas for Nonprofits

The title of the post next to a photo of volunteers packing canned goods.

Volunteers are critical to the success of your nonprofit’s events, campaigns, and other initiatives. However, effectively engaging and retaining volunteers is an ongoing challenge for charitable organizations. 

According to the Volunteer Management Progress Report, 32% of volunteer managers said recruitment was their organization’s greatest roadblock. If your organization is struggling with volunteer engagement, the key to revamping your efforts is to get creative. Changing up how you interact with volunteers can inspire supporters and inject energy into your program. 

This guide will explore these seven creative volunteer engagement ideas: 

  1. Interact with volunteers on social media.
  2. Offer a reward for volunteer of the month.
  3. Inspire friendly competition with gamification.
  4. Give your volunteer opportunities a fun theme.
  5. Encourage volunteers to bring along family and friends.
  6. Help volunteers cultivate new skills. 
  7. Create appreciation videos. 

Engaging with volunteers in unique and meaningful ways starts with having the right software solutions on your side to keep your stewardship efforts organized. Bloomerang recommends investing in nonprofit software that allows you to view and manage all constituent data in one place, whether volunteers, donors, or other supporters. This can make it easier to track volunteer interactions and leverage data to personalize volunteer outreach as you try out these ideas.

1. Interact with volunteers on social media.

Social media is more than just a tool for accumulating followers. It’s also a great place to show off your volunteers’ achievements, update them on upcoming events, and express appreciation.

Level up your social media interactions by taking these steps: 

  • Post volunteer shoutouts. Highlight successful volunteer projects or specific volunteers who went above and beyond during a recent opportunity. 
  • Share photos from events. Take candid photos during volunteer events and tag volunteers in them on social media with their permission. 
  • Let volunteers do an account takeover. Account takeovers are a popular way to provide a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit’s work. Give a long-time, trusted volunteer access to your Instagram account for a day to share videos and photos on your story of them participating in volunteer activities. 
  • Interact with volunteers’ posts in support of your nonprofit. For example, let’s say a volunteer shares a link to your online donation page in a Facebook post. Show your appreciation by liking the post and commenting to thank them for their support. 

Social media is also a useful communication method for sharing important information with your entire volunteer base. You can post timely updates about volunteer event logistics, cancellations, open shifts, and other urgent matters. This gives volunteers a convenient way to stay informed about updates relevant to their involvement. 

2. Offer a reward for volunteer of the month.

Acknowledging and rewarding your volunteers is critical for keeping them engaged and motivated. Your volunteers donate many hours to your cause, so it’s necessary to recognize their dedication and positive impact on your organization. 

To reward volunteers who make a sizable impact on your mission, consider offering a volunteer of the month program. Choose one volunteer per month who went above and beyond the call of duty, whether by helping find new donor prospects for a major campaign or taking on a major project by themselves. 

Make the designation extra-special by offering winners a prize or award. Examples of rewards can be:

  • A gift card to a local business or restaurant
  • Free merchandise, such as a branded t-shirt or hat
  • A trophy or certificate to serve as a symbol of your appreciation

If you have a smaller budget, even a simple gesture of gratitude like a handwritten note can go a long way toward making volunteers feel appreciated. 

3. Inspire friendly competition with gamification.

Gamification involves adding game mechanics to non-gaming environments using elements such as points, leaderboards, and badges. This concept can be used to motivate and engage your volunteers in a fun way.

To get started with gamification, use your volunteer management tools to keep track of each volunteer’s progress. For instance, you might track volunteers’ total hours or how many peer-to-peer donations volunteers raised. Then, incorporate gamification into your volunteer tracking system to inspire a little friendly competition.

Award volunteers with badges or points once they hit certain milestones, such as a specific number of hours worked or donations raised. Then, they can continue earning points until they hit a certain benchmark, at which point they can receive a prize.

4. Give your volunteer opportunities a fun theme.

Giving your volunteer events a theme turns a routine volunteer opportunity into an exciting, fun experience. 

For example, if you’re hosting a canned food drive around Halloween, consider making it more than just a canned food drive—make it a spooky canned food drive! Or, if you’re holding a volunteer and donor appreciation event, you could give it a groovy 60’s theme. 

Themed events make it easier for your volunteers to socialize with others, making their volunteering experience less work-intensive and more fun.

Making your volunteer and fundraising opportunities themed also helps market them to community members. You can catch the attention of anyone who passes by, offering a great opportunity to talk about your event and volunteer program. This can encourage community members to donate to your cause or even sign up to volunteer at a future opportunity. 

5. Encourage volunteers to bring along family and friends.

Volunteers will feel much more comfortable participating in your events when they can bring along a friend or family member. Encouraging volunteers to bring a loved one also promotes awareness of your program to a wider audience.

Be sure to offer a fulfilling, memorable experience that encourages current volunteers to promote your program via word-of-mouth marketing. Use the tips in this guide to create fun events with themes, gamification, and recognition opportunities. Volunteers will feel more inclined to invite their loved ones when they’ve already had an amazing experience.

When volunteers do bring their friends, collect the names and contact information of volunteers’ loved ones to add to your volunteer database. This makes future follow-up easier and allows you to grow your volunteer pool organically. 

6. Help volunteers cultivate new skills. 

Every volunteer offers a unique set of skills and strengths. By providing training opportunities, you can enhance their skill set and cultivate skilled volunteers. 

Help volunteers earn new skills through:

  • eLearning. Create digital modules for volunteers to complete at their own pace. The courses should be relevant to your volunteer activities. For example, if volunteers at your organization help maintain your community garden, your courses could be centered around gardening best practices. Offer certificates for completing online courses and spotlight volunteers who completed this training using your social media or email newsletter to recognize their achievements. 
  • Leadership opportunities. Long-time or experienced volunteers may want ways to level up their involvement. Offering them leadership opportunities is the perfect way to recognize their commitment and allow them to become even more involved in your mission. Train them to lead volunteer events by themselves or onboard new volunteers. 
  • Mentoring program. Match experienced volunteers with new supporters to help inexperienced volunteers learn the ropes. This is also an effective way to foster personal connections among volunteers, creating a stronger volunteer community. 

Provide support for each of these opportunities as needed, whether through technical support or troubleshooting, answering questions, or facilitating connections between mentors and mentees. 

7. Create appreciation videos. 

An appreciation video is a memorable recognition tool that will stand out in supporters’ email inboxes and social media feeds. Your videos can include thank-you messages directly from those involved in your nonprofit’s mission, such as: 

  • Staff members
  • Beneficiaries
  • Volunteer leaders

Include interviews, video clips from volunteer events, and direct quotes to demonstrate volunteers’ impact. 

After posting an appreciation video, make sure to track video data, such as how long supporters watch your videos or how many supporters click on videos within your emails, to improve your strategy. For example, if you discover that most supporters stop watching your videos after a minute and a half, you can shorten your videos to that standard length. 

After reviewing these creative engagement ideas, consider which strategies will work best for your volunteer program based on your volunteers’ preferences and your current resources. Don’t be afraid to test different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t. The more creative and flexible your approach, the more your program will stand out to volunteers and provide them with an enjoyable, satisfying experience. 

Author: Joshua Meyer brings more than 20 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the VP of Demand Generation for Bloomerang. As a member of the Bloomerang marketing team, Josh manages the organization’s growth marketing efforts. Through his previous roles at the Human Rights Campaign and OneCause, he has a passion for helping to create positive change and helping nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.

Socially Savvy: The Art of Engaging Members on Social Media

The wide reach of social media empowers organizations to cultivate new prospects and engage current members. However, to access a broadened audience and prompt their engagement associations must employ socially savvy strategies on the right platforms. 

To develop a successful association member engagement approach, you’ll need to master the art of posting, sharing, and commenting. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of social media engagement tips! 

Before we jump into these recommended techniques, let’s explore how your members are currently using social media.

Social media engagement trends

Of the 5 billion social media users in the world, most users engage on Facebook. This platform is the world’s most widely used social media platform, followed by YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Here’s how they use those platforms:

  • Viewing content: TikTok users spend over half their time on the app watching videos that are 1 minute or longer, indicating that long-form video is making a comeback.
  • Making donations: Social media is a popular platform for soliciting donations since 32% of donors are inspired to give via these platforms.
  • Screening advertisements: 34% of social media users say that self-promotion is a turn-off, and 56% say brands should be more relatable on social media. This means your organization should be careful to share its brand and mission in a non-promotional way.

In other words, your association’s social media usage should include reasonable asks and authentic, educational content in the right formats. 

How to engage members on social media

What are some practical ways your association can tap into these trends and start engaging members on social channels? Here are a few strategies for acting on these insights.

Post polls and surveys

Social media’s main advantage is its interactivity. NPOInfo notes that social media differs from other marketing channels because it opens the door for two-way communication. Not only can followers like, comment on, and share your content, but your organization can do the same with theirs. 

A primary way to engage with members is by asking them directly for their responses. Share polls and surveys to encourage members to interact with your content. Some questions you might ask include:

  • How long have you been a member?
  • How many events do you usually attend per quarter?
  • How satisfied are you with your membership experience?
  • What additional benefits or services would you like to see offered to members?
  • Would you be interested in participating in member-led discussions on social media?

Along with asking questions that help you learn more about your members, you should also use their responses to identify the types of content that engage them best. For example, a Facebook poll might receive more engagement than a survey posted on your association’s Instagram story. 

Engagement levels can vary depending on factors outside of your content, such as the demographics of a platform’s audience or the ease of participation in your surveys. Remember to consider these external factors when analyzing member engagement for a holistic view of your social media performance. 

Share visually appealing content

High-quality content is more likely to capture members’ attention and heighten their engagement. Visually appealing graphics, compelling videos, and other eye-catching visuals will stand out in your followers’ feeds.

Use graphic design best practices to engage members when posting about:

  • Events and campaigns: Use your brand colors and fonts to create compelling content about upcoming events and campaigns. To streamline this process, Protech recommends using association management software (AMS) to launch digital fundraising campaigns and promote them on social media. 
  • Industry news: Share quick facts and statistics about your organization’s vertical. For example, an association in the healthcare industry might share an update about a recent advancement in medical technology. These posts could include efficiency metrics, patient outcomes, and clinical trial results that highlight eye-catching statistics. 
  • Educational content: Create quick tips, best practices, tutorials, and other educational content related to your organization’s mission. 

To foster cohesiveness on your social media pages and bolster your organization’s online presence, create post templates for various channels. This way, you’ll have predesigned posts that convey professionalism.

Create private member groups

Members will be more inclined to engage with your content when they feel invested in your organization. For example, meaningful recognition, such as sending a thank you letter or gift, is a vital component of relationship-building because it shows members that they’re a valued part of your organization.

In the same way, attaching a sense of exclusivity to your social media communications can help members feel uniquely valued by your association. Certain platforms provide the tools needed to do this, such as private Facebook groups. 

Strengthen your community of members by creating private groups where they can receive exclusive information, such as:

  • Insider updates: Share special updates and sneak peeks that are only accessible in your private group. For example, you might announce a new program or member benefits before they’re communicated publicly.
  • Member discounts: Offer discounts and promotions from sponsors with only the private group. This might include discounts on products, services, or event registrations. 
  • Expert resources: Research reports, whitepapers, and other expert resources can help members advance their knowledge of industry-specific topics. 

Overall, your association should follow communication best practices when sending content in private member groups. For example, if your group consists of members who have reached a certain membership tier based on their heightened financial commitment to your organization, send messages that resonate with that specific audience.

An intuitive AMS can streamline your association’s membership management, making it easier to gather and store valuable member data for personalized communication. Invest in a Salesforce-native platform to integrate your existing CRM tools and access even more communication features. 

As you develop your social media strategy, remember that this method of engagement is ongoing. You’ll need to post regularly and continually evaluate relevant metrics to determine how successful your efforts are. This way, you can adjust your approach as necessary to share the most engaging content possible.

Author: Erin Lemons

Erin Lemons joins Togetherwork Association Solutions with over 15 years serving as a marketing director, event producer, and project manager creating robust marketing campaigns and initiatives that focus on the growing and ever-changing technology needs of the association industry. She leads the marketing teams and strategy at Fonteva and Protech.

How to Run an Auction for Your Performing Arts Nonprofit

The title of the article over an illustration of a guitar and a treble clef

Running a successful auction for your performing arts nonprofit is a multifaceted endeavor, requiring meticulous planning and strategic execution. Whether your event is virtual, in-person, or a blend of both, the right tools and approach can turn your event into a memorable and profitable experience. 

Start planning for your auction several months in advance, and be sure to document planning setbacks, discoveries, and opportunities. With this insight, you can create an action plan for running your most successful auction yet. Now, let’s dive into our top tips for hosting a performing arts auction.

Zero in on your audience.

As you start the planning process for your silent auction, it’s crucial to spend time getting to know your audience. After all, the amount of revenue you raise will depend on how much guests want to bid on your items—make sure you know what they want! 

Research your target audience’s interests, preferences, and past engagement data to tailor your event and offerings accordingly. Explore the information in your donor or member database, and revisit feedback surveys from past events to see what strategies were most successful at engaging your guests. Consider questions such as:

  • Which auction items were the most popular at past events?
  • What items or experiences appeal to our audience?
  • How can we enhance engagement during the event?
  • Are there any recurring trends among past attendees?
  • What marketing strategies effectively reach our target demographic?
  • Are there any auction themes that would particularly interest our audience?
  • What price range is reasonable for our audience?
  • Who is likely to attend? Parents, families, or working professionals?

Use the answers to these questions as an informed jumping-off point for your auction planning process. Don’t underestimate an empathetic approach—it will undoubtedly strengthen relationships and maximize your auction’s fundraising potential.

Reach out to local businesses. 

When you’re ready to solicit auction items for your event, start by asking local businesses to donate. Collaborating with local businesses can significantly enhance your auction catalog and help you cultivate lasting relationships. Follow these steps for successful partnerships:

  1. Research businesses before approaching them. Get familiar with each business’s services, giving history, and philanthropic values. 
  2. Reach out to medium and low-priority sponsors first. Your procurement team will get better at making your pitch to sponsors with more experience. Starting small will allow them to refine their presentation in lower-stress situations. 
  3. Present multiple support options. Present a variety of sponsorship options to accommodate different budgetary constraints. For example, some businesses may only be able to donate a gift card to their store while others can provide catering services for your entire event.
  4. Encourage businesses to attend the event. If they can’t donate or support financially, extend an invitation. Their presence adds to the guest list of potential bidders and strengthens your nonprofit’s relationship with the business. 
  5. Highlight the benefits of sponsorship. 360MatchPro’s guide to corporate philanthropy explains that businesses that sponsor nonprofits can see increases in employee engagement, their reputation in their community, and their overall work environment. Call out these benefits to attain more sponsors.

Remember that even if you don’t secure auction items from a business, the effort is still worthwhile. Just by reaching out, you’ll begin a relationship with them and open the door for future support.

Invest in necessary software.

In today’s landscape, utilizing the right software is essential for streamlining auction management and enhancing the participant experience. Whether you’re hosting an in-person, hybrid, or virtual auction, consider investing in these tech tools to host a better event:

  • Auction software. Many auction platforms include features to create online item catalogs, facilitate remote bidding, and improve event communication, all of which help you provide more engagement opportunities for your guests.
  • Mobile bidding apps. Some silent auction apps have mobile bidding features that allow guests to bid from anywhere using their phones. Bidding with the tap of a button instead of fighting with paper bid sheets saves time and frustration for both attendees and your team. 
  • A CRM. Auctions generate a lot of donor data, such as event attendance and donations made, which can be leveraged for future fundraising campaigns. Make sure you have a database ready to store this important information.
  • Text-to-give tools. These tools allow guests to donate just by texting. Promote your text-to-give number through announcements, displays at the venue, and online marketing. Plus, seeing others pull out their phones to give will encourage a little giving peer pressure. 

Make sure to train your staff and volunteers on how to effectively use your software solutions. By providing them with thorough training, your staff will be more confident, you’ll get the most bang for your buck, and your events will be that much better. This will also showcase your staff’s proficiency and enhance their credibility as auctioneers, ultimately leading to increased guest satisfaction and future fundraising opportunities.

Market your auction.

Once you have the auction items and technology covered, you can start planning your marketing strategy. Promote your event across multiple channels to establish a variety of touchpoints, and leverage data to better target your audience

For instance, you might analyze the communication preference data in your CRM and see that many past attendees like to hear from your nonprofit on social media. With this insight, you could create promotional posts on multiple social media outlets to spread the word about your auction.

As you promote your auction and highlight high-value items, make sure to maintain a consistent brand identity so your organization is easily recognized. Additionally, consider using your nonprofit’s network of business connections to help promote your event. When you post on social, tag or collaborate with the business that provided the item to increase your reach.

Highlight your nonprofit’s mission throughout the auction.

Auctions are exciting events, and guests can get so caught up in bidding on items that your mission falls by the wayside. Make sure to tie your mission into different parts of the event to make a lasting impression on guests. For instance, you might: 

  • Share blog articles, emails, and social media posts that talk about your mission. 
  • Make announcements or speeches periodically about your upcoming initiatives.
  • Create displays for the event that talk about your nonprofit’s history and mission.
  • Host cause-relevant activities during the event, such as a meet-and-greet with your founder. 
  • Invite a volunteer, board member, or beneficiary to speak about your nonprofit’s impact on their life.

By emphasizing your mission throughout the event, guests may be moved to give more. Plus, after your events, guests will likely spread the word about your mission and not just the items they won. 

Follow up with guests and sponsors afterward.

Remember, your auction isn’t just a fundraiser—it’s also an opportunity to help build connections and create relationships with long-standing supporters. To cement these new connections, don’t forget to follow up and thank them for attending after the auction ends.

We suggest including the following in your follow-up messages:

  • A sincere thank you. For most supporters, thank-you letters, cards, and phone calls feel more personal than a thank-you email. Go the extra mile to show your appreciation, especially for sponsors and notable donors. 
  • An impact statement. Share concrete data about what you accomplished with guests’  contributions. Provide the total amount raised, and share something your nonprofit was able to do with the auction’s proceeds. 
  • A personalized address. Personalize your follow-up messages by addressing each guest and sponsor by name and including relevant details about their contributions to your auction. 
  • A post-event survey. This will help your organization evaluate your success and plan for the next event. Try to keep it short and sweet, and include open-ended questions in addition to multiple choice so you get as much feedback as possible.

Think of your follow-up process as an investment in your nonprofit’s future. Guests and sponsors who had a positive experience are likely to return for upcoming fundraisers, especially if they receive an invitation in your follow-up messages.

Auctions are complex fundraisers, but they’re also highly impactful when you run them successfully. With the right team and resource investment tied with these guidelines, you can make your performing arts auction a smooth, memorable hit!

Author: Jeff Porter, CEO of Handbid
Jeff is no stranger to fundraising events, having participated in them for over 25 years. He ran his first fundraiser in 2005 and has managed over 50 auction events and fundraisers for his own charities, not to mention hundreds more with Handbid. Jeff has been involved in technical product and software development since 1996 and has built and managed mobile app solutions since 2008. When it became clear that he and his wife, Kari Porter, needed a better solution for their fundraisers, developing a mobile bidding app was a no-brainer. The result? Jeff and his wife Kari developed and launched Handbid in 2011. The rest is what they call “history”

Review of 2024 Reports on Donor Advised Funds

Review of 2024 Reports on Donor Advised Funds

By Elisa Shoenberger

In the past few weeks, two big reports on donor advised funds (DAF) in the US were released. The findings are pretty fascinating and can help reorient your thinking of how to approach DAF advisors for your organization.

The 2024 National Study on Donor Advised Funds (NSDAF) undertook the largest study of DAFs in the US so far by working with 111 DAFs to parse their data from 2014-2022. One of the most interesting findings is that 81% of DAFs in the study were opened after 2010 with 25% or more opened after 2020. That is astonishing! That means that most DAF advisors are relatively new to having a DAF.

Continue reading Review of 2024 Reports on Donor Advised Funds
groups of people interconnected

Donor Segmentation: How To Create Personalized Appeals

As a nonprofit professional, you’re always searching for the best ways to improve your fundraising efforts and maximize the use of data captured from your campaigns . And with donor acquisition costing 10 times more than retention, you know how crucial it is to secure long-term support.

Continue reading Donor Segmentation: How To Create Personalized Appeals

How to Assess Your Fundraising Campaign’s Success: 3 Tips

People discussing a project at a desk

Whether you’re managing a large-scale capital campaign or a small GivingTuesday push, understanding your fundraisers’ wins and failures can better prepare you for campaigns in the future. However, with so many moving parts at play, it can be challenging to pinpoint your success indicators and understand how to measure them. 

Continue reading How to Assess Your Fundraising Campaign’s Success: 3 Tips